Melodrama: An Aesthetics of Impossibility
Jonathan Goldberg is Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of English at Emory University and the author of several books, most recently
Wildean Aesthetics: From “Paul’s Case” to Lucy Gayheart
This chapter examines an early story by Willa Cather and a late novel to see her ongoing struggle with and adaptation to a Wildean aesthetic in her work that underlies queer possibility, which she attaches in these texts (and others as well) to music, especially to classical forms of song. These texts are about lives cut short, often in highly melodramatic extreme circumstances (suicide, drowning), and about a life that goes on beyond mortal limitation. That life is aesthetic life and is what melodrama, when it drives its plot to the extremity of impossibility, opens on.